Speculators Take Stock as Well-Oiled Exel Gets Worldwide Attention

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBERT LEA

IN the global corporate marketplace there are few British champions, but amid the axle grease of logistics group Exel is a world leader.

Yet if the so-called men in dark glasses who fuel the City rumour mill are to be believed, Exel's independence may not last with the company, which has its roots in Margaret Thatcher's 1980s privatisation programme, finally falling to expansionist US giant UPS.

Exel shares soared by up to 20% over the past week as speculators took executives at UPS at their word. In a conference call with analysts, UPS bosses were asked whether there was likely to be any merger and acquisitions action.

The reply was yes, in European logistics. And, so the argument goes, if UPS is talking European logistics it is talking Exel.

"In logistics it [Exel] is bigger than anyone else, it is in more places than anyone else and it serves more industries than anyone," says Arbuthnot analyst Alastair Gunn.

Exel is best known in the UK for running the warehousing and delivery of goods for the likes of Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser and delivering to pubs and off-licences via its Tradeteam brand.

The sheer breadth of the company - more than 100,000 people in 120 countries with annual sales of [pounds sterling]7 billion serving 75% of the world's top non-financial companies - makes it a sizeable bite for any organisation, but speculators also alighted on UPS rival Fedex and German giant Deutsche Post as potential rival bidders. …

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